Upcoming Events: March 2024

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, March 27 at 5:00pm | “The Actor’s Mind in the Russian Modernist Theater” a lecture by Alisa B. Lin (Ohio State University).


In the spring exhibition, Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge, primary objects bring to the fore the tension between literal and figurative arrangements of space, time, and knowledge during the Middle Ages.

This exhibition is curated by David T. Gura, PhD, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts.


The current spotlight exhibits are Scripts and Geographies of Byzantine Book Culture (February – April 2024) and A Medieval Nun’s Choir Book (February – March 2024).


Special Collections is open regular hours during Notre Dame’s Spring Break (March 11-15), Monday through Friday, 9:30am – 4:30pm.

We will be closed on March 29, in observance of Good Friday, and open regular hours on Easter Monday.

Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge — RBSC 2024 Spring Exhibition is now open

Rare Books and Special Collections’ spring exhibition, Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge, is open and will run through July 31st. 

The tension between literal and figurative arrangements of space, time, and knowledge during the Middle Ages is brought to the fore through the primary objects that remain. Geography, whether real or imagined, manifests on the page to convey a variety of spatial arrangements: topography, pilgrimage, peripatetic liturgical procession, diaspora, and boundary marking. The materiality of medieval manuscript books expresses a similar reality: geographic colophons mark time and space, prayers localize devotion, and the communal memory of a journey commingled with hope and desperation survives in liturgical readings. Even the scattering of manuscript leaves through biblioclasty creates the boundary of what a book once was and what it has become.

Detail of a T and O Map, a world map based on Isidore of Saville’s description of the physical world. The O represents the earth and the T marks its three divisions: Europe, Asia, and Africa.
(cod. Lat. d. 7, f. 157v)

To map the Middle Ages is to journey through the space created by the objects and the individuals who used them. If we embrace a manuscript in the totality of itself, we form a new bond and continuity with those who have come before us. The manuscripts in this installation are drawn from the collection of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library.

This exhibit is curated by David T. Gura, Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts Librarian. This and other exhibits within the Hesburgh Libraries are generously supported by the McBrien Special Collections Endowment.

All exhibits are free and open to the public during business hours. Exhibition tours may be arranged for classes and other groups by contacting David T. Gura at (574) 631-6489 or dgura@nd.edu.

Upcoming Events: February 2024

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, February 1 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “Leonardo da Vinci’s Way of Seeing Water. Wetlands, Mapping, and the Art of Painting” by Francesca Fiorani (University of Virginia).

Thursday, February 29 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: M.A. Students Presentations (University of Notre Dame) — This semester’s speakers are: Fabiola D’Angelo and Peter Scharer.


In the spring exhibition, Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge, primary objects bring to the fore the tension between literal and figurative arrangements of space, time, and knowledge during the Middle Ages. Geography, whether real or imagined, manifests on the page to convey a variety of spatial arrangements: topography, pilgrimage, peripatetic liturgical procession, and boundary marking. The materiality of medieval manuscript books expresses a similar reality through geographic colophons, regional markings of book production, devotional locals, and even the dispersing of manuscripts through modern-day biblioclasty.

To map the Middle Ages is to journey through the space created by the objects and the individuals who used them. The manuscripts in this installation are drawn from the collection of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library.

This exhibition is curated by David T. Gura, PhD, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts.


The current spotlight exhibits are Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and A Warning Against Rum in Early America. Both spotlights will change out in February, check our website for more details in the near future.

Welcome Back! Spring 2024 in Special Collections

Rare Books and Special Collections welcomes students, faculty, staff, researchers, and visitors back to campus for Spring ’24! Here are a variety of things to watch for in Special Collections during the coming semester.

Spring 2024 Exhibition: Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge

The tension between literal and figurative arrangements of space, time, and knowledge during the Middle Ages is brought to the fore through the primary objects that remain. Geography, whether real or imagined, manifests on the page to convey a variety of spatial arrangements: topography, pilgrimage, peripatetic liturgical procession, and boundary marking. The materiality of medieval manuscript books expresses a similar reality: geographic colophons, the regional markings of book production, devotional locals, and even the dispersing of manuscripts through modern-day biblioclasty.

To map the Middle Ages is to journey through the space created by the objects and the individuals who used them. The manuscripts in this installation are drawn from the collection of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library.

Curated by David T. Gura, PhD, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts.

This exhibition is being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, which will be hosted March 14–16, 2024, at the University of Notre Dame.

Stop in regularly to see our Collections Spotlights

Fall Spotlight, continued through the end of January: Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

This exhibit features a selection of sources from the Joyce Sports Research Collection that document and preserve the history of football at Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs). During the era of Jim Crow segregation, the vast majority of African American college students and student athletes attended HBCUs.

Many of the yearly gridiron contests between rival institutions developed into highly anticipated annual events that combined football with larger celebrations of African American achievement and excellence. The programs, media guides, ephemera, guidebooks, and other printed material on display document the athletic accomplishments, the celebrations, the spectacle, and the community-building that accompany football at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Curated by Greg Bond, Curator of the Joyce Sports Research Collection and the Sports Subject Specialist for Hesburgh Libraries.

December-January Spotlight: A Warning Against Rum in Early America

Displayed in the spotlight is a 1835 poster commemorating a Salem, Massachusetts minister’s attack on a neighbor for distilling and selling rum. This particular copy was partially hand-colored in watercolor, preserved with a cloth backing, folded, and bound into a pocket-sized leather cover. The broadside is part of Hesburgh Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections’ collection of prints, posters, and broadsides.

Curated by Rachel Bohlmann, Curator of North Americana at Hesburgh Libraries.

These and other exhibits within the Hesburgh Libraries are generously supported by the McBrien Special Collections Endowment.

All exhibits are free and open to the public during regular hours.

Special Collections’ Classes & Workshops

Throughout the semester, curators will teach sessions related to our holdings to undergraduate and graduate students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College. Curators may also be available to show special collections to visiting classes, from preschool through adults. If you would like to arrange a group visit and class with a curator, please contact Special Collections.

Upcoming Events

Thursday, February 1st at 5:00pm | The Spring 2024 Italian Research Seminar and Lectures will begin with a lecture by Francesca Fiorani (University of Virginia), “Leonardo da Vinci’s Way of Seeing Water. Wetlands, Mapping, and the Art of Painting.”

Learn more about this and other Events in Italian Studies.

Recent Acquisitions

Special Collections acquires new material throughout the year. Watch this blog for information about recent acquisitions.

Women in Irish Prisons: Autographs of Prisoners in 1923

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian (retired)

Autograph books, nicely-bound books full of blank pages, have been popular for a long time — from schoolchildren’s record of classroom friendships to collections of famous people’s autographs. The Hesburgh Library recently added to its collection a small but powerful document of women’s involvement in Ireland’s politics one hundred years ago. 

Our new acquisition is the prison autograph book of Aoife Taaffe (MSE/IR 1101). The autograph book, signed by her fellow prisoners in 1923, documents the women, and also their dates and places of imprisonment during the Civil War of 1922-23.

Aoife Taaffe, Political Prisoner. Four Courts, Mountjoy, N. D. U., Kilmainham. 1922, 1923.

Information given on this page tells us that Taaffe was a prisoner in the Four Courts, in Mountjoy Jail, in the North Dublin Union, and in Kilmainham Gaol. The book is filled with the signatures of other women who were imprisoned during the Civil War of 1922-23, and their signatures are usually accompanied by information on imprisonment places and dates.

Like many women activists of her time, Aoife Taaffe is not well-known today. Information gleaned from various sources tells us that she was very involved in theatre both as an actor and a director, and she was also involved in many commemorative events for the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence during the 1920s and 30s. While in Kilmainham Gaol, she marked the seventh anniversary of the 1916 Rising by producing P. H. Pearse’s The Singer, with a cast of women prisoners. 

Autographs in the book include those of Margaret Buckley, Kid Bulfin, Eithne Coyle, May Gibney and Margaret Skinnider. In all, the book features the names and signatures of dozens of women prisoners.

The history of women’s involvement in the Irish War of Independence and Civil War is still relatively unknown. Sinéad McCoole’s No Ordinary Women: Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years 1900-1923 (2003) is an important history, and a number of articles and podcasts on the website of Century Ireland provide interesting perspectives on women’s history of the period. A major primary source is the Military Archives, particularly the accounts of service provided by applicants for a pension.

Seven years ago, we mounted a centenary exhibition, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, which featured books and documents on a small number of women. This autograph book encourages us to look more widely for sources of Irish women’s history, which is slowly being pulled from the shadows.

A Woman’s Reporting on the Bonus Army in Depression-Era Washington

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

Rare Books and Special Collections recently acquired a small archive that documents the Bonus Army—a Depression-era protest by World War veterans and their families. Lonore Kent (1907-1993), a journalist living in Washington DC at that time, created and assembled these sources.

In 1924, Congress had rewarded World War soldiers for their service with certificates of investment that would be payable by the government in 1945. By 1932, however, many veterans, like millions of Americans, were desperate after nearly three years of the nation’s disastrous economic depression. Former soldiers began to demand that President Herbert Hoover pay out the promised veteran bonus immediately, given the national (and global) crisis. The men’s plea caught the attention of people who thought the federal government should be doing more to address the economic depression and people’s real need. By the spring of 1932 legislation began moving through the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee.

Some veterans, in a determined effort to put the case directly to their Congressional representatives, embarked for Washington. In early May, 300 former soldiers left Portland, Oregon, bound for the capital. Quickly dubbed the Bonus Army, they were joined by a trickle and then a river of veterans and their families nationwide. By June 40,000 Bonus Army marchers were in Washington; some huddled in makeshift shelter amid construction sites downtown, but the largest concentration of marchers settled on a muddy stretch of the Anacostia River, in an encampment of thousands of men, women, and children.

On June 15, 1932, the House passed enabling legislation, but the Senate blocked the bill two days later. This spared Hoover the embarrassment of vetoing it, which he had promised to do, citing budgetary constraints. Most Bonus Army members stayed put, hoping for some form of government relief. By the end of July, as Hoover looked to his re-election prospects in November, the President ordered city officials to disperse the Bonus Army. When some squatters resisted, Hoover called in US Army General Douglas MacArthur to restore order. MacArthur exceeded his instructions, however, using armed troops, tanks, and cavalry to drive Bonus Army families out of their shacks and tents, and burning the Anacostia River encampment to the ground.

Lonore Kent’s collection offers a perspective on MacArthur’s violent overreach on the night of July 28 and the charred remains the next day. In a letter to her parents, Kent described how she used her press pass to get onto the Anacostia Bridge between Maryland and Washington, where a line of soldiers—bayonets drawn—fired tear gas at the evicted and homeless Bonus Army to keep them from crossing the bridge and entering the city. Beyond the soldiers, Kent saw the Bonus Army camp in flames.

Kent drew a map of where she was that night—in relation to the soldiers, the encampment, and what she saw. (She identifies the river as the Potomac, probably short for the “Eastern Branch of the Potomac,” commonly-used for the Anacostia River.) The next day she returned to the burned-out site and documented some of the destruction. Kent reflected on the Bonus Army, noting, “Probably the granting of the bonus is unsound economically, but you can’t expect people to be impressed with such arguments when they are starving.”

Hoover’s mistreatment of the Bonus Army and general mishandling of veterans’ requests for economic assistance fatally soured the nation on his administration. The brutal ousting of the Bonus Army came to symbolize Hoover’s callous indifference to Americans’ suffering and his inability to govern amidst a national economic disaster. In the fall, Franklin Delano Roosevelt decisively defeated Hoover and implemented federal-level economic and social reforms to address the magnitude of the Great Depression. The Bonus Army, although defeated in 1932, re-formed and continued to press for an early payout, which Congress granted in 1936.

RBSC welcomes researchers to use this collection (MSN/MN 10053) and others on American history topics. For further reading see Stephen R. Ortiz, Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill: How Veteran Politics Shaped the New Deal Era. New York: NYU Press, 2009.


A happy Memorial Day to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

2016 post: Memorial Day: Stories of War by a Civil War Veteran
2017 post: “Memorial Day” poem by Joyce Kilmer
2018 post: “Decoration Day” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
2019 post: Myths and Memorials
2020 post: Narratives about the Corby Statues—at Gettysburg and on Campus
2021 post: An Early Civil War Caricature of Jefferson Davis
2022 post: Representing Decoration Day in a 19th Century Political Magazine


Rare Books and Special Collections is closed today (May 29th) for Memorial Day and will be closed on July 4th for Independence Day. Otherwise, RBSC will be open regular hours this summer — 9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.

During June and July the blog will shift to our summer posting schedule, with posts every other Monday rather than every week. We will resume weekly publication on August 7th.

Congratulations to the 2023 Graduates!

Best wishes to the 2023 graduates of the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College, from all of us in Rare Books and Special Collections.

We would particularly like to congratulate the following students who worked in Special Collections during their time on campus:

Sarah Berland (ND ’23), Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior, with an Irish Language and Literature Minor.

Kathryn Heyser (ND ’23), Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Bachelor of Arts in History.

Both images: MSE/EM 110-1B, Diploma, University of Padua, 1690

Upcoming Events: May and through the summer

Currently there are no events scheduled to be hosted this summer in Rare Books and Special Collections.

The exhibit Printing the Nation: A Century of Irish Book Arts  will run through the summer and close in late July.

The current spotlight exhibits are Language and Materiality in Late Medieval England (February – early May 2023) and Hagadah shel Pesaḥ le-zekher ha-Shoʼah – Pessach Haggadah in memory of the Holocaust (April – May 2023).

Rare Books and Special Collections is open
regular hours during the summer —
9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.

RBSC will be closed Monday, May 29th, for Memorial Day and Tuesday, July 4th, for Independence Day.

Special Collections in the Classroom: Notre Dame Students’ Online Exhibition Hidden Depths

by Rachel Bohlmann, Curator of North Americana and American History Librarian and Erika Hosselkus, Curator of Latin Americana and Strategic Implementation Project Manager

This week Special Collections highlights an online exhibition created by Notre Dame students in their fall 2022 class, Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives and Collecting. The exhibition, Hidden Depths: Resurfacing the Overlooked and Underrepresented, brings together materials from  the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories–Rare Books and Special Collections, the Snite Museum of Art, and University Archives–selected and interpreted by the students.

Screen shot of the homepage of the digital exhibition "Hidden Depths", showing the header banner at top (a collage of detail images of the items explored in the digital exhibit) and below that the first few tiles of the exhibit showcases.

The items displayed here vary in format, time period, medium, style, and content–abstract painting, sculpture, installation art, photographs, and collections of historic documents–and are created by people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Their selection reflects the themes of the class, which were to explore the history of collecting in Europe and North America and some of the field’s major questions, including, what has been left out? Where are there gaps and silences in collections and archives?

Eight students applied a curatorial gaze to these materials, to examine how they do and do not intersect with themes of diversity. While these curators recognize the diverse identities of the creators of these objects, the showcases comprising this exhibition point viewers to hidden depths. They ask that we consider how identities are nuanced through regional conditions, educational background, economic forces, and personal trauma. And just as importantly, the curators of the show consider how identity and diversity are not always directly linked in one’s art or expression. They also demand that consumers of these pieces of art and historical sources work to apprehend the complexities behind their creation. By extension, they suggest that we take a careful second look in other contexts, beyond the online gallery or the museum.

This exhibition offers interpretation, but it also asks questions, and challenges viewers even as it invites them to connect with holdings in the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories. Information about the student curators and their experiences in this course can be found in the personal statements at the end of each showcase.

Hidden Depths showcases ways in which students engaged with special collections materials over a semester-long project. The result is a display that uncovers, refocuses and takes an imperative second look.

Upcoming Events: April 2023

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, April 6 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “Democracy and Defeat: Morante, Moravia, and Malaparte in Capri, 1946” by Franco Baldasso (Bard College).

Monday, April 17 at 4:00pm | Special Collections Lecture: “Heinrich Jöst’s Warsaw Ghetto Photographs and the Challenges of Interpreting Holocaust Images” by Daniel H. Magilow (University of Tennessee, Knoxville). This lecture is co-sponsored by Hesburgh Libraries, Florence & Richard C. McBrien and Richard C. McBrien Endowment and by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

Thursday, April 27 at 5:00pm | Ravarino Lecture: “Pandemic and Wages in Boccaccio’s Florence” by William Caferro (Vanderbilt).

RBSC will be closed for Easter weekend, April 7-9, 2023.


The spring exhibit, Printing the Nation: A Century of Irish Book Arts, features selected books from the Hesburgh Libraries’ Special Collections that demonstrate the art and craft of the Irish book since 1900. The exhibit, curated by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, will run through the semester.

Tours of the exhibit may be arranged for classes and other groups, and additional curator-led tours are available at 12 noon on the following upcoming Friday: April 21.

The April spotlight exhibits are Language and Materiality in Late Medieval England (February – April 2023) and Hagadah shel Pesaḥ le-zekher ha-Sho’ah – Pessach Haggadah in memory of the Holocaust (April – May 2023).


Although ongoing library renovations will continue through 2023, Special Collections is no longer behind a construction tunnel!